Tag Archives: Video

The First Mindbender

Not having a car in LA is more frowned upon than having bad credit, or being unemployed, or winning a Golden Razzie. Just as winning as Oscar gives your career a 38F-cup-size breast augmentation, a Razzie has been known to kill it, unless you are someone like multiple-Razzie-winner M. Knight Shyamalan, who is as weirdly indestructible as the Last Airbender himself.  You would think he would long ago have been thrown into the darkest malebolge of director’s jail with three consecutive seven-year sentences, seven years being the conventional duration of a director’s jail term in Hollywood, during which the studios close ranks and won’t let you make a film. Shyamalan’s career is, indeed, the first mindbender, that is until you take a close look at how much revenue his films generate per million spent, and then you get it: he’s still in the upper five earners out here.

Mhmmm Night Shyamalan and the star of "The Last Airbender," Noah Ringer. Note that, even though Ringer doesn't appear to be Indian from his name, he does look like Shyamalan. I'm sure he was cast because of his superlative karate skills and his Fanning Sisters-level precocious acting abilities, not because the director might fancy himself as a small, magical boy beset by unending adversity. When judging Mhmmm Night's choice of star, you should also ignore the fact that almost everyone else in the film is of South Asian descent, as if the whole thing were a Hindu epic peopled with characters with Sino-Japanese names.

The fact that The Last Airbender is mindbendingly terrible has been said over and over by more astute critics.  I watched it because I was a boy once, too, who daydreamed about being magical and being able to fend off endless adversity; in other words, watching this sort of fantasy dreck is a guilty, pubescent pleasure, especially if accompanied by a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  As an adult I find myself battling real and impossible odds, but without the benefit of cash much less magical powers.  The daydreaming has sadly faded under the frigid strafing of actual adversity.  It’s a pity because I could completely remove myself from this world with a fabulously imagined, detailed epic as a kid.

The best thing about not having a car in LA is you actually get to walk around, to pause and savor the weirdness, rather than zooming by with your eyes darting between the road ahead and the rearview mirror.  My polo-playing friend James Tuttle called the other day and offered to give me a lift to the gym, and I was almost going to say no because I enjoy the walk so much, but having a good chat with a witty friend trumped having a good think.

Yesterday on my walk to lunch in West Hollywood with my friend Alan Linn, the owner of Norwood, I came across this scene outside Hollywood High School on Sunset:

In case you didn’t get it form the murky Blackberry footage, it’s a sign twirling class in session.  Who knew there was actually training for this, but it looks like a lot of fun.  You can’t hear the audio well, but the instructors are yelling, “And ROLL!”  I recognized one of the students as a guy who hangs out in the apartment in front of mine, a tiny studio that seems to house an infinite amount of young musicians.  They just pour in and out of there day and night.  That unit is a case of how many hipster-ish guitar players with their instruments can you jam in a phone booth.  From what I can tell, there is no bed, they all sleep on the floor, which they vacuum once a day as if they were making the bed.  The vacuuming often trips the circuit board that connects the electricity in my apartment as well, so I’m treated to repeated power outages.  Ah, yes, this is exactly the future I dreamed of as a young person, along with world-saving magical powers: to be stuck in a Susan Blais-brand crypto-tenement in Hollywood, being serenaded at all hours by plaintive guitar ballads (one was entitled “How Many Holes in the Wall?”) and raving schizos and car sirens and the thump-boom-screaming-drunk-chicks nightclub across the street.  And to think that Mhmmm Night Shyamalan …. No, I can’t think about Mhmmm Night’s career; despite it all, I still have ambitions.

The last time I lived in LA — I moved to London after four and a half years here in 2003, and moved back to LA last August — I would never have dreamed of taking public transportation.  That was when I was still immersed in a reality that seems a parallel universe away after the seismic transformations my life has been through over the past few years.  Now I think it’s the best way to get around; for instance, I got to and from the Superior Court downtown in less than twenty minutes on Friday (see Palace of Fear post).  That wouldn’t be possible even in New York.

The extraordinary thing about the LA Metro system is you can plan your trip by looking up a schedule of subways and buses, which you can’t do in any other city I’ve ever lived in.  So far, the subway has been invariably on time, which would be astounding in Paris, London or New York. I have never been late for an appointment if I time it right.  The bus is somewhat less reliable for obvious reasons, but if you give it a cushion of ten minutes, you’re still going to get to where you need to go within a reasonable time frame.

And of course, any bus traveling within a three-mile radius of Hollywood is bound to carry the odd true-blue loony.  The other day a woman with schizophrenia and a thick Italian accent got on the 217.  No sooner had she sat in the back than she began a low-toned monologue with herself, which between the hum of the engine and the prattle on the TV (LA transport has its own TV channel, complete with an anchorman reading the news) became soothing after a few minutes.  Then I started to pay attention to what she was saying, and realized she was talking about having being molested by her brother as a child, but because she referred to herself in the third person, the narrative seemed eerily poetic.  It was disturbing, to say the least, but I couldn’t block it out.  It reminded me of Monica Bellucci stoned on heroin, reciting a portion Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis” as rewritten by Anaïs Nin.

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Holy Hoodwinking Hookers!

I know, I said I wouldn’t use any more gratuitous alliterations after Monkey Monday, but in the case of this story it was harder to pass up than a free sample of organic taramosalata on a freshly toasted bagel chip at Whole Foods.

Once upon a less-than-a-week-ago, I got an email from a hooker who wanted me to write content for her website.  In the email, she described herself as follows:

“I am a young savvy cosmopolitan woman. I enjoy all things that encompass the fine Mediterranean lifestyle, gourmet cuisine, fine wines, theater, high fashion, laughter and keeping great company. Well cultured and traveled I am the perfect companion to accompany you in any social or private situation.

My hair is made of spun gold and hangs just above my waist; crystal green is the color of the eyes that you will want to gaze into for hours at a time! My body is firm and fit, I keep a rigorous workout routine and practice yoga daily to keep both my mind and body balanced and whole.”

Now, if you were a red-blooded homosexualist like me, who only gets confused about his sexuality when he’s had too much to drink and ends up dumping the guy and snogging the girl, you would see this after reading that:

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried as the crystal green-eyed, spun-gold-haired hooker with magnificent breasts in Atom Egoyan's "Chloe"

Am I right or am I right?  This presumes you’ve actually sat through Atom Egoyan’s lullaby in soft porn, “Chloe,” in which a young hooker (Amanda Seyfried) seduces an upper-middle-class Canadian gynecologist (Julianne Moore, whom I always want to call Marianne Jones for some reason) by pretending to have seduced the gynecologist’s husband (Liam Neeson).  Even if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it for any sleepless night.  Just pop it on, grab a piece of toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk and you’ll be out like a light in half an hour.

Indulge me with a quick side trip to the subject of Atom Egoyan.  I mean, the guy has always been willfully trippy — as if making films about incest and other horrors is somehow more palatable if they’re hypnotic and tasteful — but now watching his films feels like the last time I took a quaalude back in ’89, when that drug was losing favor and dying out: feebly  erotic but above all soporific in a party-pooping kinda way.

And what is this about relentlessly portraying the upper middle class as even-toned, spaced-out, gorgeous successes who endlessly attend concerts or museum lectures or cocktail parties that look like choreographed routines at Sea World accompanied by … what is that music called, Atom, ambient synth jazz?  That ain’t the UMC I’m from, baby.  Maybe they’re like that up in Canadia (again, spelling intentional), but not in New York City.  Where are the rollicking, fractious, alcoholic, socially insecure, nerdy, witty banter-ful, mentally  unstable, erratically pulcritudinous folks I know, love and have major problems with?  (I was actually laterally moved out of the UMC to the lower upper class in the late 90s owing to the strong scent of gutter I have acquired.)

Atom, listen: if you want a good, truly sexy, realistic script about Our Crowd, have one of mine.  I’ll even give you a discount on the front end and take a chunk of the back, that’s how confident I am that one of your movies will finally make money.  (This is where I link-plug our feature film company, just in case Atom is bored enough to deep Google himself and take me up on my offer.)

Anyway, back to my hoodwinking hooker. So I got really excited about this gig, like, texting-my-friends excited.  I was going to do the content and maybe the design for the website of this smoking hot, high-end hooker who charged her clients $1,000 an hour, or $10,000 for a “pajama party” sleep-over. This was going to open up a whole new venue for me.  I was going to be the gay Hugh Hefner of web content.  I spoke to my prospective client on the phone, and we hit it off beautifully. I even sold her on the idea of doing video for her site when she comes out to Los Angeles in March.  Video is what Pure Film Creative — sorry, another link-plug rudely squeezed itself in there — is really trying to sell its clients; people won’t pay a lot for text, but they’ll shell out some decent dosh for good video.

I was so pumped about this that I sailed through my workout at the gym.  Things were looking up.  This was something I could enjoy and make some worthy money doing, once the word got out to the other girls and I was soon surrounded by prose-depraved harlots (they prefer the word “courtesan,” as if everything they learned about describing the business came from Memoirs of a Geisha), who would swaddle me in some of that delicious $1,000-an-hour green.

No sooner did I get home than I got an email from my new client:

What a pleasure to speak with you! If we’re going to work together I believe honesty is the best policy. My name is S __ and my assistants name is S ___ you will be dealing with either of us at any time, but primarily myself in regard to my creative needs. My true description is 5’7 165 lbs long brown hair, brown eyes curvy and firm 38F 30 42 size 12 dress all natural I’m latina and african american mixed.

And accompanying this fantasy-shattering confession were two images:

Miss S__, the hooker who needed a content makeover, after full disclosure

WHOA!  “True description” indeed!  This has to be the exact opposite of the crystal green-eyed, spun-gold-haired Amanda Seyfriend look-alike with whom I imagined I had chatted on the phone.   This was not at all the sleek, lusty-yet-intellectual heroine of my forecast of the future, whose web content and image I would reposition so brilliantly  that the poor woman would never get off her back with the amount of clients she would be raking in, all thanks to me; she would be diving and swimming in a pool filled with cash, just like Donald Duck’s Uncle Scrooge.

After picking myself up off the floor, I shook out my shock and disappointment like a Turkish housewife beating a carpet, and rose to the challenge anyway.  38F bust size! Hmmmm. As S___ herself admitted in our further correspondence — I called her “extra voluptuous,” was that wrong? — she is a particular taste and has no trouble securing regular clients.  That made sense.  What I liked best was I was learning something about a whole new business sector and how it is marketed on the internet. I’m serious: this was a modern cultural curiosity, a revamping of the world’s oldest profession.  I learned from Miss S __, for instance, that hooker websites are mainly developed by a female-owned service named Veda Designs.  It’s a very clever model, everything a professional “companion” could need, from private photo galleries, to online payments, right down to finding an assistant.

Unfortunately, Miss S __ didn’t want my design services, just a polishing of her content, particularly her bio and her “philosophy towards the business,” which in most other industries is known as a Mission Statement. Copy like, “My goal is to take your face and smother it between my 38F ebony pillows until you pass out from ecstasy or from burst blood vessels in your brain,” sprang to mind later during my hike up to the Hollywood Sign, always my favorite way to regroup and re-strategize. (I saw Moby again on the street while I was hiking up there, greeting Heather Graham as she got out of a car.  He just bought and fixed up this mini castle, the lucky bastard.  We waved at each other.  We’re becoming waving friends.)

Then came the unfortunate question of money.  She wanted copy up front, I wanted a deposit up front.  Yes, I even put my policy in terms she could understand, you would have been so proud of me: “Listen, you know the drill: put the money on the dresser first before we get into bed, and I don’t take checks.”  I actually said that, in my usual cheeky way punctuated with a laugh.  I gave her my Paypal account, but she must have balked because I haven’t heard from her.  So much for my career as the gay Hugh Hefner of hooker web content.  That’s really Veda, bless her; I hope at least she’s a lesbian.

Weather Watch:

Can you believe it, it actually rained a bit last night in Los Angeles.  I’m sorry I missed it. Back on January 25th, when the umpeenth blizzard struck New York, I sent some of my friends this screenshot of the weather forecast for LA:

It was like that for the five days after that, too.  Yeah, not nice sending that to the blizzard-battered, but I couldn’t resist.  It’s fun to be wicked sometimes.  As my niece Savannah once said when I was scolding her, “But I like to be bad sometimes, Uncle James.”  I know what she means.  It’s not the same as being truly evil, like my landlady, Susan Blais; in my opinion, she’s the raw, pure Mean ‘N Nasty, the kind who can’t eat ice cream because it scorches her mouth.

Sorry, was I unkind?  Just getting started.  But I have to be careful to phrase everything about Ms. Blais with “in my opinion,” or she’ll sodomize me with a razor-barbed defamation suit as well.


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